5 On Your Side

How COVID-19 could make health care easier

Posted November 25, 2020 5:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 25, 2020 5:28 p.m. EST

COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of life, including how we handle some medical appointments. Five On Your Side’s Monica Laliberte looks at the virus’ impact on the future of doctor visits and common health tests.

Some experts say COVID-19 rapidly accelerated technology to make more options possible — including virtual visits with your provider. When we’re sick, leaving the bed for the doctor is a struggle, but more patients are being diagnosed and treated through doctor’s appointments on their phone or tablet.

New research shows, nationwide, telehealth app downloads jumped nearly 160% this year. Options for at-home tests are also growing.

The FDA just gave initial approval for a rapid-result home test for COVID-19.

Doctors think we’ll see other options soon to test for flu, strep and even pneumonia.

"Your virtual health visit may end with, ‘Okay, I’ve ordered these tests and they should be coming to your house this week,’" said Dr. John Sanders, chief of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Health. "Prick your own finger to put the blood on the tube, swab your nose, put some spit into a tube — there are an increasing number of ways we can do these tests and they get better all the time."

COVID-19 seems to have put it all on the fast track.

"I don’t know how accurate it would be," said telehealth patient Carmen Pyrtle. "Like, if it’d be less accurate, but if it’s the same thing then it doesn’t matter."

Another patient, Caroline Trainor, said the home tests make her a little nervous.

"Cause he has to do it for me," she said of her partner, laughing. "So I’d make sure he knew what he was doing."

According to Sanders, there will always be a need for a good physical exam, but for other issues, and for those who can’t easily get to the doctor, increasing telehealth and at-home options add convenience to health care for both patients and physicians.

"I think that at-home laboratory testing is going to be a more common part of our lives going forward," said Sanders.

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